DO WHATEVER THE FUCK YOU WANT UNTIL THE HUMANS MAKE YOU STOP
This post is a compilation of blog entries written during my second visit to Parque Machia, an animal refuge located in the Chapare region of Bolivia and operating under the Inti Wara Yassi animal refuge network. Although I had been to the refuge before, my volunteer work on my first visit mostly consisted of caring for a young mountain lion named Sonko, so I was only peripherally aware of the capuchin monkeys who I cared for during this second visit. Although some of the entries have been altered slightly to fill in gaps of missing information, all the events depicted are true.
February 20th 2010
Yesterday, two male capuchins sucked each other off on my lap. Later that afternoon, two males (I’m pretty sure it was Nicholas and Populito) were sitting on my lap and Nicholas started to give Populito head. Populito did not reciprocate. Thinking this unfair, I gently nudged Populito face into Nicholas´ crotch and Populito eagerly began licking away.
for those of you who don’t know, I’m now working in the monkey quarantine with the capuchins. I love it. To clarify, monkeys in the quarantine aren’t sick; they’re simply waiting to be placed in other areas of the park where they will be eventually released.
Yesterday I let an old capuchin named Llorona sit on my back for almost an hour, running her little fingers through my hair and over my arms and chest looking for bugs and bits of dead skin. It was like a massage. It was better than a massage. It’s so good to just have someone pay so much attention to you. Every day after lunch I go into the quarantine and say ¨Llorona, it’s time for my three o’clock!” she also eats my ear wax but she doesn’t dig in as far as the other capuchins do. Isn’t life under the sun such a crazy dream?
One capuchin named Queenie has gone into heat. She spends her entire day masturbating with her leg while staring at me and screaming. If I let her climb on me she never will let go. She just hangs on me and screams. Even when I’m in the quarantine kitchen cutting up vegetables for the monkey’s little dinners she’s sitting in the window, staring at me, masturbating, and screaming.
It’s definitely hard work though. I spend at least three or four hours a day cleaning up dirty pieces of fruit and shit with Queenie screaming for sexual gratification in the background. It’s all so surreal. I feel like an Aztec filth goddess. I suppose I do lose some man points for not working with the mountain lions, but I love these dirty capuchin bitches in monkey quarantine.
A large male named Cesar escaped from his cage yesterday for a morning of wanton debauchery and general mayhem. Cesar is one of the capuchins who knows how to unhook carabineers. He released four other monkeys who were on cords and also opened the baby cage. Then Cesar had sex with Natalia so she’s probably pregnant now. We managed to catch all of the monkeys that escaped except Cesar, but he hasn’t been causing as much trouble today. Hopefully the vets will tranq him with the blow gun soon.
Monkey quarantine is a lot like the baby sitters club. Every day we break up tantrums and give little monkeys snacks and toys made of branches. The heat is starting to get to the monkey quarantine. All day we go around letting the monkeys drink from the hose and make splashes with the water. Drinking from the hose is an activity that always reminds me of summer and it certainly feels like summer here in Bolivia.
I woke up this morning with the feeling of needles in my stomach, heartburn in my throat, and something akin to the bloatedness that comes with drinking too much soda. I stumbled to the bathroom and puked up the frosted flakes I had for dinner the night before. I went back to my room and tried to get ready for the day. I made it down to the quarantine and after washing a few dishes, found myself once again in the bathroom but this time I was spewing from the other end. The vets at the refuge told me that I should go to the hospital. I decided that first it was time to go back to my room. I stood under a cold shower for a few minutes and then passed out in bed.
While sleeping, I dreamed that I was wandering through an overcast lightning ridden apocalyptic landscape. I had a capuchin (I think Llorona) sitting on my shoulder, her metal cord in my hand. Tupac Shakur´s 96´ Bonnie and Clyde was playing in the background.
“All I need in this life of sin, is me and my girlfriend.”
As we crossed a bridge we saw above us a highway sign that read ¨SHIT CITY.” the area beyond was a lot like monkey quarantine- a sea of cords and cages and monkeys attached to lines of rope with carabineers. Except now there were thousands of capuchins, and it was as if the quarantine city had never been cleaned. Dirty pieces of fruit and vegetables as well as shit and torn leaves were strewn everywhere.
I awoke several hours later and walked down to the hospital, squirted what little diarrhea I had left into a cup and then handed it over to the doctor. While waiting for the results of my parasite test, I watched as a man carried a black rabbit by it’s ears out of the biohazard zone where I assumed they were analyzing my feces. The man dropped the struggling lagomorph on the tiled floor and then spent several minutes chasing it around until he finally managed to catch it. He then carried it back into the biohazard zone.
When the test results came back it was confirmed- I had parasites (though which ones has been lost in translation.) They gave me a whole bunch of drugs so I should probably be fine.
Below I have described three of my favorite monkeys.
Victor makes the list for being a general badass. Even though he’s trapped in a cage, he is still the alpha male from hell in the quarantine. Victor is a huge capuchin and several vets have expressed to me that he fears nothing and may be the most dangerous monkey in the park. If Victor got free, I would probably be more terrified than a Haitian who just found out that the drug lords had taken over Haiti again. Victor is currently imprisoned for starting bloody wars with various alpha males and their gangs in other sections of the park. Also, female capuchins and their babies hang out around Victor’s cage everyday. These are Victor’s hoes and the babies are the children he has had with them. Three times I have seen Victor stick his purple cock through the bars of his cage and fuck those shameless hoes.
Rusber is one of my favorites because I am one of his favorites. Rusber is now considered the most aggressive capuchin on a cord, but he is also more cuddly with me than any other capuchins. He mostly seems to hate female volunteers, often pulling their hair and biting them very very hard. We had one quarantine volunteer quit after only one day because Rusber bit her quite deeply on the hand. And right after he did so he gave me big puppy dog eyes and cuddled up in my arms. I must admit, I secretly love Rusber´s chauvinistic ways. Also, Rusber and Pepe (also a boy) were going at it the other day when we were trying to put them away for bed and that just about made my day.
One of my biggest character flaws is that I demand constant praise and attention from the people around me. Without it, I start to feel very unappreciated. If it wasn’t for Llorona, I might’ve tried to switch out of the quarantine after only two weeks. She will literally sit in my lap or on my shoulder for hours running her little fingers through my beard and hair, itching my bug bites, picking the dirt out from under my finger nails, and licking up bits of dead skin. She’s like a personal masseuse that is available for free at all times of the day. Llorona is quite old and has a large scar under her right eye. But she’s still my favorite.
Two days ago a baby monkey in quarantine died from dehydration. She was only two years old but quite big. They had taken her out of the baby enclosure and put her on a runner. Although she was often too scared to take food from volunteers, we had thought that she had started eating in the few days prior to her death. We were told by other volunteers that capuchins get their hydration from the food they eat. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The day before this occurred we heard Nena, the president of the organization, shout that we should give water to the monkeys on hot days. We did this that afternoon and the following morning. What we didn’t understand is how much hydration they needed. According to the vets, on hot days we should be spraying the monkeys with the hose every fifteen minutes.
This was not the first baby monkey to pass away since my time at Parque Machia. During my first week, a large male kidnapped the baby of one of the quarantine monkeys and took it over to the cage of an aggressive male who then ripped the baby monkey’s leg off- the baby subsequently died from the trauma. This was also tragic but one could not blame the quality of the work done by volunteers working with the monkeys. Sadly with this most recent death that is not the case.
There are currently 73 monkeys in quarantine and 4 volunteers. I am the most experienced volunteer in quarantine, having been there only two weeks when this tragedy occurred. I was similarly trained by a volunteer who was very dedicated and hard working but had only a week of experience at the time. Monkey quarantine is considered a two week job. So it is rare that anyone in the quarantine would have over two weeks experience when training a new volunteer. Obviously, this means that information (the monkeys needing water for example) often gets lost. These are intelligent wild animals with a diverse set of needs. There was no actual file for monkey quarantine and many of the individual files for the monkeys are empty. The most extensive information on the routine for the quarantine is a single piece of paper on the wall of the kitchen which details the schedule.
Tomorrow, we are having a meeting with the vets. We’ll see how it goes. I am going to ask that a vet goes around twice a day and makes sure that each monkey is doing all right. I’m not a veterinarian or a biologist and I’m not qualified to know all the signs of a suffering monkey. This baby had not been lying down for more than an hour before we called the vet’s attention. It would’ve been easy to assume that she was only taking a nap. A week ago, this baby was living a healthy life in the baby cage. We thought that she was just having a hard time adjusting to her runner and would eventually get used to it after a little while. Now she is gone.
This experience has been hard for me because I am no longer sure that I am working to give these animals a better life. With poor training and a lack of information, I now feel that I am working only to keep these animals alive. Now that we have started hosing down the monkeys, I expressed to one long term volunteer that they are having fun. I’m afraid I was not being honest. All of the monkeys run away when you try to hose them, and some of the monkeys get very upset and scream when you hose them. I feel like I’m the cops in one of those pictures of riots from the 60s. Totita even attempted to bite me when I was hosing down Jade, who is her close compadre. I am more than happy to do it if it’s what’s best for them, but I am also worried about causing them stress in the heat. We also made them all water bowels out of cut up water bottles. This has worked well for many monkeys and has been a good source of enrichment.
The function of the monkey quarantine is to serve as a holding stage for monkeys before they are moved to other areas of the park and eventually freed. However, I don’t know anything about this process and I am sure that at least two of the monkeys in quarantine, Patty and Victor, were also in quarantine three years ago during my last visit to this refuge. Sarah, one of the long term volunteers, told me that one of the capuchins, Llorona, was probably going to stay in quarantine for the rest of her life because she is too old to be freed into the monkey park or the Mirador. Llorona is a very sweet monkey who spends her nights in her fairly small cage and her days on a small runner where she is afforded much less than 100 square feet of space. She mostly spends her time grooming volunteers and breaking into the tool shed adjacent to her runner, playing with brooms and rags.
According to her file, Llorona came from a zoo. Although I know that zoos in Bolivia are often horribly maintained, if it was like a zoo in perhaps another country, she might actually have some more space then she does right now. The goal of this refuge is maybe to give animals the highest degree of freedom possible as long as it doesn’t cause harm to themselves, other animals, or people. All of the felids at the park are offered their own individual volunteers. If monkeys like Llorona are unfit for any sort of release, than there should maybe be a program for those monkeys so that they can at least experience a little more than a tool shed (although Llorona does seem to be having a lot of fun with just that.)
I am going to address these issues at the meeting tomorrow. That we are having a meeting at all does give me some hope for the situation, and I am glad and impressed that the long term volunteers picked up on my stress because I actually feel very shy about expressing my feelings here; mostly because I’m not a long term volunteer. Anyway, I have high hopes that this is going to get resolved and that there will be a good file with information on all the monkeys for the new quarantine volunteers when I leave.
So looks like I’m back drinking the kool-aid here at good ol´ Parque Machia. My faith in Inti Wara Yassi has been restored… sort of. We held a big meeting with the head vet and everyone who works in the monkey quarantine and talked about the monkeys passing away. They said it wasn’t the volunteers´ fault and things had been strained in the administration and they were just sorting out what vets went where in the park and they were going to have the vets in more and they were really sorry and yada yada yada. Really, the thing that sold me was that they showed me that they did have a plan for each monkey to get out of quarantine- they just didn’t have the new park for them fully developed yet. But they’ve bought the land and they’re building a clinic for them as we speak. The head vet, Johnny, is a real smart guy and I liked everything he had to say in the meeting.
But the problems in quarantine haven’t been the organizations only problems since I’ve been here. It seems like everyone here either has foot fungus, knee injuries, or parasites. A man was seriously electrocuted in the shower of my hostel two weeks ago and had entrance and exit wounds on his hand and foot. Two days after that, three girls were robbed at gun point in town. People have been quitting every day. At one point we averaged four quits a day which is quite bad considering the park never has more than 40 volunteers. Worst of all, they recently had to impeach the president of the whole Inti Wara Yassi organization for misusing money and the lawsuit against him could tear the organization right down the middle. But I’m a man of faith. Maybe this was all just a bit of bad timing for me. I have to believe that I showed up at Parque Machia when it was at it’s absolute worst ever.
This refuge is like the bad news bears of animal refuges. We come from all over and we drink and smoke and some of us only speak English and some of us only speak Spanish. Some of us only sort of care about the animals but some of us go out there and we try to save them aminals real hard.
For the last two days we only had two volunteers in the monkey quarantine- myself and a hard working new girl named Ailis whose from Scotland and Ireland. It’s already a twelve hour work day so with only two we can’t possibly get everything done for those little monkeys before the sun goes down. I’m so busy doing the chores that I don’t know what the monkeys are doing. But a ton of new volunteers showed up on a bus tonight, looking clean and sexy and ready to save the world. Desperately wanting them to stay, I looked up from my beer and uttered what might be the new Parque Machia motto:
“everyone make this look like the best damn animal refuge in the entire world.”
Punky had been free for over a week and a half. Sometimes when it was raining she would sneak into the cage that she shares with Franca at the end of the day when we were putting away the other monkeys for bed time. But the next morning she would always just dart out of the cage before we could grab her by the tail and put a cord on her.
Yesterday morning I got her. As I carried her out of the quarantine to take her to the vets for her new belt and cord, all the monkeys were in an uproar. Were they furious at the capture of a free capuchin? Just as I was walking out of the entrance of quarantine, Natalia leapt at me and bit me hard on my left hand. Monkey teeth are blunt. It wasn’t a deep cut but there was quite a bit of blood.
These proceedings as well as watching an escaped monkey (Cesar) liberate various monkeys on cord has made it fairly clear to me that these animals desire a freedom for each other as well as themselves. I probably shouldn’t be saying this, but part of me secretly wanted Punky to stay free- and one of the times she escaped because another volunteer let her out.
As I’ve said before, This refuge has become too crammed with monkeys. But long term volunteers claim that if some of these monkeys were released they would be brutalized by capuchin groups that have already been formed.
And they’re probably right. I read Punky´s file: it said that she used to be a free monkey in the Mirador but she was gang raped by a group of large males and her anus was ruptured. Ah yes, ass rape is the way of capuchins. In the words of the head vet at the refuge, they’re cabrones (assholes in spanish.) so is she better off in the quarantine on a cord? How can we choose to give an animal our human judgment of happiness over our human idea of freedom? It’s all very tricky.
Three days ago my application to volunteer on a sea turtle project in Ecuador affiliated with the Equilibrio Azul marine conservation group was accepted. If I survive the bus trip there, (and that’s a big ¨if¨) then I’ll pretty much be spending my final month in South America scouring the beaches for sea turtle mamas to tag for census.
I’m not leaving the refuge because I don’t believe in Inti Wara Yassi anymore. Even though it’s not the mythical cult that I once thought it was, I know that they’re doing a good thing at the end of the day. But you’re only in South America once or twice, right? And if my little monkey friends have taught me anything, it’s that you should do whatever the fuck you want until the humans make you stop.
Ailis, one of the girls who worked with me in the monkey quarantine at Parque Machia, showed up in Puerto Lopez a couple of days ago to volunteer with Equilibrio Azul, the marine conservation group I‘ve been volunteering with for the past couple weeks. Ailis was in quarantine for about a week after I left and she said that after I was gone they really cleaned out the enclosures of all the monkeys that were permanently caged and put in hammocks and logs and swings and ropes to give the monkeys a bit more to play on. They also started devoting more volunteers to quarantine and there were about eight when Ailis left. When I was there, four people was considered a good number to run the quarantine.
Ailis also told me that Megan, the volunteer coordinator at Parque Machia, said something about how sad it was that I wasn’t there to see how the quarantine had changed. I didn’t know that my voice meant so much to her. I hope it was more the death of a monkey and less what I said that made things change, but it makes me glad to know that they fixed up things after I left. Bolivia is a complex and suffering thing and I never said that the long term people at the park weren’t trying their hardest. I guess my point is that I still believe in Inti Wara Yassi.